Sam Baker is a folk singer songwriter from Austin Texas, and he graced The Artery with his presence Monday evening. Baker’s style is resonant of Canada’s own Leonard Cohen. His songs are more spoken word poetry set to a traditional folk backdrop than a catchy tune you can sing along to. In contrast to the likes of Cohen and others such as Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash, the latter of which was covered by Baker, Baker’s poetry doesn’t focus so much on a narrative structure. Where songs like “Tangled Up In Blue” span a decade of experience, Baker’s material attempts to harness the beauty of a split second moment. The moments articulated in these songs range from the pleasantly fleeting adoration of a sunbather undoing her top to the inexplicable sensations experienced by Baker aboard an exploding train.
Baker apparently picked up a band whilst playing at the North Country Fair and brought them to Edmonton for this one little show. His accompaniment included two singers of the female variety helping out with key lines, and a bassist that helped walk the songs along. There was nothing overly complicated with the performances, which Baker outwardly admitted, but the focus was on the lyrics, and Sam Baker’s writing style along with his stage personality was original and interesting enough to allow his lack of singing ability and simple tastes to be overlooked.
Opener Darryl Matthews on the other hand was not about simplicity. Unlike Sam Baker, Matthews provided little in the way of stage banter and storytelling but shone vividly as a musician. Matthews’ music is heavily rooted in blues, but takes elements of folk and rock to create a particular sound all his own. He’s a fairly strong singer, but his talent is clearly most invested in the guitar. My personal favorite performances by Matthews were his instrumental pieces. It was in these that he truly showcased his talent as a rhythm guitarist. In particular a percussive guitar piece entitled “My Sanity” caught my attention.
Overall a nice slice of musical pie at The Artery.